Dear Friends of the Department,
When I was asked to write a note to you, our alumni, and friends, I went back to what I wrote in 2018, that is, the time in which terms like a pandemic, reproduction rate, mutations, and mRNA were little known and even less understood concepts of remote relevance. Much has changed since. Yet, re-reading my greetings from 3-4 years ago, I am struck by how much of what I talked about back then is still relevant. I wrote my last note in the middle of the Lex CEU scandal. CEU, and our department, was still in Budapest, and the decision to move to Vienna had just been taken. Back then, I speculated how this move will change CEU and I made the promise to you and myself that we continue to strive for making CEU an even better place. That is what we are doing. And I think we are doing well.
Our department is heavily involved in several of the new undergraduate BA programs that CEU has started to offer. We continue to improve our position in global rankings and now belong to the top political science departments in continental Europe and to the top 25 worldwide. Much to our delight, we continue to welcome outstanding students in our programs, students from all around the globe, just as you have experienced your CEU in the good old days in Budapest. All these achievements are far from trivial given the difficult circumstances in which they are achieved.
The pandemic is taxing for everyone and everywhere. It creates particularly vexing challenges for a university that has just been pushed across a national border into a new legal and social context. Many of CEU’s faculty and staff, including in our department, have not (yet) moved to Vienna. This meant that for a significant amount of time during the past pandemic year, colleagues were separated from their workplace and their students by a border that was, and still is, only difficult to cross. For some months it was not possible to cross it at all. For much of the past year, we have taught our courses online. I thought that it went better than feared. For some types of courses, I even think some elements of remote teaching could, and perhaps should stay. There can be no doubt, though, that the onsite presence of students, faculty, and staff is quintessential. The chats on the corridor, the personal contact in the classroom, and the social interactions are what fill a university with life and create lasting memories and knowledge.
Let me conclude with a personal note. From February 2022, I will be CEU’s Pro-Rector for External Relations. This role is part of a restructuring of CEU’s leadership. Instead of one Provost, there will be five Pro-Rectors, all recruited for a maximum of six years from among CEU’s faculty. This new role will be exciting and challenging as CEU is undergoing one of its biggest transformations since its foundation. One necessary element of success is that we continue to attract bright minds to our programs. If you have wondered how you can help CEU and its Political Science department to continue its success story, my answer is: keep on sending students to our department and always keep CEU close to your heart. And once we are through with this pandemic, make sure to say hello whenever you are in Vienna.
Carsten Q. Schneider
MA Program Director